Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Chirac Announces He's Upping France's Commitment of Forces To Lebanon; Washington Suspects Iran May Be Trying To Destabilize Iraq; More Ominous Signs North Korea May be Preparing to Test a Nuclear Bomb Underground; "The Jerusalem Post" Reporting Israel Prepared To "Go It Alone" Against Iran If World Doesn't Halt Nuclear Program; Five Years After 9/11, Osama bin Laden Remains at Large; The Hunt for Osama bin Laden; Displaced Iraqis are Refugees in their Own Country; Controversy Surrounding the FDA's Decision on Morning-After-Pill; Pluto No Longer Classified as a Planet

Aired August 24, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, we've just received word of a new tropical depression brewing. We're going to go live to the CNN hurricane headquarters in just a moment.

It's midnight in Beirut, where hopes for peace in the Israeli- Hezbollah conflict get a big boost. But is Israel gearing up for another potential showdown, this time with Iran?

It's 2:00 a.m. in Pakistan. Has the hunt for Osama bin Laden run cold? He's still on the run almost five years after 9/11. Are officials doing everything they can to find him?

I'll ask the Pakistani ambassador to the United States. He'll join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And it's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, where a three-year battle over the so-called morning-after pill is now over. Find out who will be able to buy the emergency contraceptive without a prescription.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Well, we begin with the news just coming in to CNN about a new tropical depression. Let's go right to CNN's Reynolds Wolf. He's at the CNN hurricane headquarters.


BLITZER: Next Tuesday also happens to be the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. We'll be covering that anniversary as well.

There are new efforts under way right now to try to put together a peacekeeping force for Lebanon. And there's a sizeable new contribution coming in from France, which may actually wind up encouraging others to join in as well.

President Bush has been busy working the phones today, even while on vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano, is there. She's joining us now with more -- Elaine.


Well, less than a week after President Bush urged France to send more peacekeeping troops to Lebanon, a major announcement by French president Jacques Chirac today that he would be upping his country's commitment of forces to just a -- from just a few hundred to now up to 2,000 troops. The White House obviously pleased by that. In fact, Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino saying a short time ago that "The president welcomes the decision by the French. As he has said, an international force needs to be deployed urgently."

Now, President Bush is spending the weekend here at the family compound in Kennebunkport. He will be attending a family wedding.

On his way here, though, he did engage in some telephone diplomacy, talking to Italy's prime minister and Germany's chancellor. The topics? Lebanon and Iran.

On Lebanon, the president congratulated the Italian prime minister for his country's offer made earlier this week of up to 3,000 troops for that expanded international peacekeeping force. On Iran, discussion of the continuing efforts taking place on the diplomatic front, and no new reaction, Wolf, on Iran. The White House today simply reiterating that August 31st deadline for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment activities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elaine, thank you very much.

And if the world doesn't act against Iran's nuclear program, will Israel go it alone? Could new nuclear-capable submarines give Israel the muscle to strike or strike back at Iran?

Coming up, I'll speak with David Horovitz. He's the editor of "The Jerusalem Post". There's a story in there today that you'll want to know about.

Also, another day of danger and death in Iraq. Car bombs and shootings have killed more than a dozen people, including two more American soldiers. Washington suspects neighboring Iran may be trying to destabilize Iraq for its own ends.

Let's go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has a penchant for saying that Iran is notably unhelpful when it comes to Iraq. The question is, just how unhelpful? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice over): While the Pentagon still blames al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents for most of the violence in Iraq, the U.S. military is increasingly pointing the finger at Iran for behind- the-scenes meddling that is destabilizing Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's irrefutable that Iran is responsible for training, funding and equipping some of these Shia extremist groups, and also providing advanced IED technology to them. And there's clear evidence of that.

MCINTYRE: A report issued by the House Intelligence Committee concludes, "Iranian involvement in Iraq is extensive, and poses a serious threat to U.S. national interests and U.S. troops." The report, written mostly by R republican staffer, is based on unclassified sources, including public testimony by top U.S. intelligence and military officials, as well as media accounts. For example, it cites a 2005 Knight Ridder newspaper report that the 20,000-strong Badr organization had infiltrated elite commando units in the Iraqi interior ministry and become what amounted to an Iranian fifth column inside the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

Outside experts say, while it's clear Iran is buying influence in Iraq, it's harder to prove Iran's government is directing the attacks.

KEN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INST.: It's much less clear that they actually are deliberately trying to have these groups go after the United States because, in fact, the groups that they have the closest ties have actually been the ones that have been most restrained and least active in targeting coalition personnel.


MCINTYRE: Now, that House Intelligence Committee report expresses frustration that the U.S. doesn't have a clearer picture of the extent of Iran's activities inside Iraq. It calls for better intelligence collection and analysis to determine the extent of Iran's influence over what happens in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre.

Thank you.

And coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, they're refugees in their own country. An exclusive look at what hundreds of Iraqis are facing every single day. They are living in virtual tent camps after being chased from their homes as a result of deadly sectarian violence.

Our exclusive report, that's coming up in a few minutes.

The world's attention once again also focused right now on a secret site in North Korea where more suspicious activity is reported once again today.

Let's bring back Zain Verjee. She has the story -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are more ominous signs North Korea may be preparing to test a nuclear bomb underground.


VERJEE (voice over): More movement. Vehicles coming in and out of a suspected nuclear site in North Korea. Japan now beefing up surveillance.

That's what Kyoto news agencies are reporting today, quoting an unnamed government official. U.S. intelligence analysts have spotted suspicious activity, too, confirming to CNN last week that they're carefully tracking movement.

The fear, North Korea will conduct an underground nuclear test.

WENDY SHERMAN, THE ALBRIGHT GROUP: Either North Korea is really just yanking the international community's chain, or it is actually going to conduct an underground nuclear test.

VERJEE: North Korea test-fired seven missiles last month, rattled regional nerves, and got slapped with U.N. sanctions.

The war in the Middle East knocked the north from the headlines. Experts say Kim Jong-il is desperate for attention.

SHERMAN: They look at what's happening with Iran and all the attention that Iran is getting, and Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon. They want just as much attention.

VERJEE: Diplomacy has hit a dead end. Six-party talks have stalled.

Today, South Korea says the prospects of returning to the table are dark, as the north shows no sign of coming back.

PETER BECK, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: The nuclear test is really their ace of spades. And to have them play it now would be a bit surprising, but they may have decided that they have nothing to lose at this point.

VERJEE: If North Korea blows a bomb underground, there will be no spy video to capture the moment. But seismographs will detect any detonation in real time through a global monitoring system, and radiation can be traced to confirm its nuclear nature.


VERJEE: One North Korea expert we spoke to says the options facing the administration are talk, bomb or watch, and that for now, it appears the administration has decided to wait and watch -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Zain.

Zain Verjee reporting. Jack Cafferty has the day off. He'll be back with "The Cafferty File" on Monday.

Up ahead, Israel arming itself and preparing for the long haul. The Jewish state standing ready to fight alone, if necessary, against a new nuclear foe. There's a report to that effect.

We'll speak to the editor of "The Jerusalem Post".

And five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still at large. We'll examine where the hunt for al Qaeda's number one man is going, who is chasing him. The Pakistani ambassador standing by to join us live.

Then later, Apple recalling hundreds of thousands of laptop batteries. Could yours be one of them? We're going to tell you how to find out.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Israel has reportedly acquired two more German-made submarines, giving it a total of five which are capable of carries nuclear weapons. While Israel does not publicly confirm having nuclear weapons, it's believed to have a significant stockpile.

This comes as "The Jerusalem Post" is now reporting that Israel is prepared to "go it alone against" Iran if the world community doesn't act to halt Iran's nuclear program.

Joining us now live from Jerusalem is David Horowitz. He's the editor-in-chief of "The Jerusalem Post".

David, thanks very much for coming in.

You quote a senior source in your paper today as saying Israel may have to go it alone against Iran. Explain to our viewers what you're learning, what you're hearing, what's going on.

DAVID HOROVITZ, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "JERUSALEM POST": Well, first of all, you have a president in Iran, Wolf, who almost every day, and certainly at least once a week, is telling the world that he wants to eliminate Israel, that Israel should be eliminated, and he's moving alarmingly towards a nuclear capability. And I think what you -- you unmistakably have in Israel as of late is a growing concern that there may not be international will to stop him doing that.

And exacerbating that concern is also a fear that perhaps America may not have the will or the capability or the inclination or the support to take on Iran militarily. And very recently now you have some Israeli officials who are entertaining the notion that Israel might take military action alone. I would be very cautious about this. We have not had, that I know of, public officials on the record in their own name saying that Israel is going to do this. But as you rightly say, "The Jerusalem Post" today quoted an unnamed very senior Israeli official saying Israel may have to go it alone.

I've also spoken to people today who give less dramatic assessments and who stress many of the problems associated with an Israeli strike, if Israel was contemplating it. But plainly, the situation is becoming of ever-greater concern to Israel.

BLITZER: Well, how much of a window is there? How much time is there before Israel would have to make that decision to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, presumably with air power?

HOROVITZ: Well, the question really should not be solely applied to Israel, Wolf, and that's something that all Israeli officials have been trying to stress for a long time. Iran talks most avowedly about wanting to eliminate Israel. But don't forget that Ahmadinejad talks about the desires to be rid of the United States as well.

And Israel's position has always been that this is not an Israeli problem, this is a world problem. You have an Islamic extremist regime dedicated to the spread of an Islamic extremist ideology.

But in terms of the scale, the assessments that you hear more and more is that, if a decision is not taken within a very, very short time, it will be irrelevant, because, say, six or 12 months from now -- and those are the kind of time periods you hear -- it will be irrelevant. Iran will have reached the R&D stage, where it can do everything that needs to be done and will then be able to duplicate those capabilities at many sites around Iran, at which point, of course, a military strike becomes much, much more complicated.

BLITZER: When I was in Israel I heard that same six to 12-month time frame from senior Israeli officials as well. There are other U.S. officials here in Washington who think they have more time.

But here is the key question. If Israel were to go it alone, could they do it? In other words, back in '81, they did destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor, but the Iranians presumably have learned a lot of lessons since then, they've spread out their facilities, deep underground bunkers.

Could Israel take the action that would destroy Iranian nuclear facilities?

HOROVITZ: Again, I'd like to answer you best by talking about this not solely as an Israeli problem. I'll tell you, a few months ago I interviewed Joe Lieberman, who was here, about the issue of tackling Iran. And he said the most that America could do -- never mind Israel -- would be to set the Iranians back, to send a message to maybe hit some of the targets.

There is no overwhelming confidence that Israel could take out Iran's program, and there are huge differences with Osiraq in 1981. When Israel hit Osiraq, there was no expectation that Israel might possibly strike, and that was it for Saddam's nuclear program.

There was one -- one target, Israel took it out, and Saddam lacked the resources, he lacked the expertise, he lacked the raw materials to rebuild. And none of those things apply to Iran. Moreover, Iran has all kinds of capabilities to respond to anybody's military attacks.

So this is a much more complicated reality.

BLITZER: David Horovitz is the editor-in-chief of "The Jerusalem Post".

David, thanks for coming in.

Sobering words.

Coming up, the sectarian violence in Iraq has driven nearly a quarter of a million people from their homes. We're going to have an exclusive look at the conditions in the camps for Iraqis who are refugees in their own country.

Then, a major product recall by Apple Computer. Could using some Macintosh models actually be dangerous? We're going to have the answer.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There she is, Zain Verjee. S he's joining us for a closer look at some other important stories -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, Interstate 20 in northwest Louisiana is back open to traffic in both directions after a series of explosions at an ammunition plant. Fire at the Explo Systems facility at Camp Minden touched off a major blast this morning over several hours. More than 10 more explosions rocked the plant. Six hundred-plus students from two schools and 400 inmates from a jail had to be evacuated.

There are no reports of any injuries.

The fifth tropical depression of the season has formed in the Atlantic. It's expected to become a tropical storm possibly within the next 24 hours. If it does, it would be named Ernesto. The new system comes on the heels of Tropical Storm Debby. Debby has steered out into the open Atlantic, well away from land.

New data show greater-than-anticipated drops in the U.S. housing market. A government report shows that new home sales are down 21.6 percent from last year. The median price for a new home came in at $230,000. That's down 10 percent from the record high set in April -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

Apple is recalling more than one million of its laptop batteries in the United States over fears that some of those batteries could overheat. Is your computer affected?

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has some answers -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued the recall and you can find all of the information you need to know on their Web site.

What we're talking about now are the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with cells that are made by Sony. This affects the iBook G4 and the Powerbook G4. It does not affect any other Apple notebook computers.

You can go on to the Web site and get the model numbers and the serial numbers that you're going to need to know.

What you do is, you take your battery out, you turn it over, and on the back it will have the model and serial number. Now this is very important.

You go to the Apple web site and sign up for your free replacement, or give them a call and tell them that you need one. Don't put the battery back on. They say while you're waiting for your free replacement to come, you should plug that computer in, use the AC adapter cord. Do not put the battery back on.

You may remember that just last week, Dell had to recall some four million batteries. Those, too, had cells made by Sony -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jacki.

Jacki Schechner, welcome back.

When we come back, Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the new decision by the FDA to approve over-the-counter sales of the so-called morning-after contraception pill. We'll tell you what's going on.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden remains at large. The hunt continues, but why can't the United States or its allies track him down?

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's been looking at this story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one former top U.S. intelligence official tells us, while the trail may not have gone completely cold, it has certainly become more difficult.


TODD (voice over): We haven't seen him at all this year, but the last time we heard him may provide a clue to Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. June 30th, 2006, three weeks after a U.S. air strike kills Iraq's al Qaeda leader, bin Laden responds.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): Our dear Muslim nation, we were deeply saddened by the passing of our loved ones, Abu Musab, and his companions.

TODD: So far this year, Osama bin Laden has put out five audiotapes. A far cry from the several videotapes issued by his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, OSAMA BIN LADEN'S TOP LIEUTENANT (through translator): Bush, do you know where I am? I'm in the midst of the Muslim masses.

TODD: So, is bin Laden hiding amidst the crowd or on a barren mountaintop? A U.S. military intelligence official tells CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen bin Laden may be in the Chitral region of Pakistan, a rugged mountainous stretch near the borders of Afghanistan, Kashmir and China. One reason, the response time it takes for bin Laden's tapes to reach the public, which average three weeks from a prominent news event.

And there's this clue...

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM EXPERT: The vegetation in a videotape that was shot of bin Laden that aired in the 2003 time period, he's walking around a very mountainous area with particular kinds of trees that apparently are peculiar to the Chitral region.

TODD: Although that tape was made three years ago, Bergen and other analysts believe bin Laden has not moved around since then. Others in the intelligence community dispute the Chitral theory.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: In Chitral you've got a mixture of people. You've got Ismailis, the Khalash (ph) people, you have some Sunnis. People there who by virtue of being orthodox Shia would be, I think, hostile to bin Laden given that he has endorsed killing Shia in Iraq, for example, as part of the strategy there.


TODD: Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. has said he believes Bin Laden is in Afghanistan but John McLaughlin, Peter Bergen and others disagree because U.S. and NATO forces are actively hunting for him there. Those forces not allowed in Pakistan. Many experts believe Bin Laden will probably issue another public message on the upcoming five-year anniversary of September 11th. Possibly even on videotape, and that may give intelligence agencies more clues. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you.

So what's the likeliest place where the al Qaeda leader may be hiding and does he have any deadly surprises up his sleeve. Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, is Pakistan's new ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Durrani and from New York, CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen. Mr. Ambassador, first of all welcome to Washington, good to have you here.


BLITZER: From Pakistan, I'll get to Peter shortly. But you don't believe Osama bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan, while so many other experts believe he is, in one of the rugged provinces there, in no man's land. Why are you so convinced he's not in Pakistan?

DURRANI: You see, as many analysts who say they are there, I think there's three times the number of analysts who tell you he's not there. So I am one of those three times and I think those issues have been brought home and that is Chetrau (ph) is a very different region, he has no sympathy whatsoever in Chetrau. The (INAUDIBLE) there, it's sparsely populated and there are no crowds which he can get around. The people know each other an outsider would stand out like a sore thumb and especially a sore thumb in this case because they don't like him there.

BLITZER: Is it a fact, though, there are parts of Pakistan -- and some of these areas along the border -- where even the Pakistani military dare not go?

DURRANI: Well Chetrau is certainly not one of them. Chetrau is a place where the army has been going in and out, staying there for years and years, way long time back. It is not part of the --

BLITZER: But there are other areas where he could be hiding in Pakistan.

DURRANI: There are the tribal areas but we are sure he's not there.

BLITZER: How can you be sure if you don't go there?

DURRANI: Who says we're not there? We are right up to the edge of the border.

BLITZER: You do go into those tribal areas?

DURRANI: Absolutely. You know that thing has changed for the last three or four years we are right up to front. We have about 900 posts along that border, while on the other side they're only about 100 posts, sorry, we have about 600 and there's only 100, and that area is patrolled, it's not a hiding place. We know that area. We have our intelligence there and we will catch him if he was there.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen is our terrorism analyst, he spent an enormous amount of time, as you know, Mr. Ambassador.

DURRANI: I know.

BLITZER: Researching this subject, he's highly respected. Peter, are you still convinced that Osama bin Laden is someplace inside Pakistan as opposed, shall we say to Afghanistan?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, it's not really just my conviction. I mean that's the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community and also of the U.S. military. There are basically two or three reasons I think that, that is also common sense. One is, Pakistan has done a very good job on some levels of going after al Qaeda.

But every single senior al Qaeda leader that's been arrested since 9/11 has been arrested in Pakistan. After the fall of the Taliban, al Qaeda essentially re-based itself in Pakistan, a country that Bin Laden has been visiting since 1980, a country that Ayman al- Zawahiri has been visiting since around the same time, the number two in al Qaeda.

And so when you have every senior leader of al Qaeda who's been captured in the post-9/11 era after the fall of Taliban in Pakistan, it's also common sense to presume that the leadership are also in Pakistan. Another part of this commonsensical approach is that you've got 20,000 American troops and 15,000 NATO troops on the other side of the border in Afghanistan performing in a rather aggressive manner against the remnants of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and they're just not encountering al Qaeda. It's common sense if you were a member of al Qaeda, would you stay in Afghanistan?

BLITZER: Well let me let the ambassador explain, respond to that. First of all, there are no -- the search in Pakistan is strictly Pakistani troops, there are no U.S. troops in Pakistan looking for Osama bin Laden. Why not let some U.S. troop's special operations forces go in and help you find the al Qaeda leadership?

DURRANI: Well I think the Pakistani troops are very competent. They are professional. They can do it. They know the terrain. They know the people. They know the issues, so we really don't need help. We do get some kind of help. I am not in a position to talk about that, because that's classified information.

BLITZER: Military sort of expertise.

DURRANI: Yes, yes, a lot of expertise, intelligence, and all that, so we are getting all the help that is necessary and important and I think your military understands that, your --

BLITZER: But politically, it would be difficult, shall we say, for the Pakistani government if U.S. forces were actually on Pakistani soil?

DURRANI: Most certainly it would be very difficult for Pakistan, an independent country. It values its independence, and they would not like somebody else to come and hunt for a problem that we have.

BLITZER: Peter, the other al Qaeda operatives who were found in Pakistan, all of them, I think, were found as a result of Pakistani involvement, Pakistani determination. Is that right?

BERGEN: Well, I mean, I think both U.S. and Pakistani cooperation. I mean, whether it's the arrest of Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander who was found in rural Pindi, which actually happens to be the headquarters of the Pakistani army, near Islamabad or many others.

BLITZER: I asked a question Peter, sorry for interrupting, I asked the question, because is there some suspicion out there that Pakistan may not want Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri to be captured?

BERGEN: I think it is a tricky one. I mean in 2004, Osama bin Laden scored a favorability rating of 65 percent in a poll of Pakistani people. I would ask the ambassador, is there a Pakistani politician who scores higher numbers than Bin Laden.

BLITZER: Well what's the answer, Mr. Ambassador? Is there a sense that you really don't want to capture this guy?

DURRANI: I think this is totally false, and I think it's ridiculous that Pakistan, who's put their life on the line, that we have suffered the largest number of casualties in this war and how can somebody say that we are not in it, our heart is not in it or we don't want to capture him.

Look at the number of people, I think one element that our friend forgets is the time line, when we captured this, this was in 2004 and earlier. Now, of course, we are spread out, our intelligence is spread out. We are dominating those areas and I don't think it is anywhere possible for him to be hiding in these areas. I can't say 100 percent, but I am sure I am 90 percent convinced that he's not there.

BLITZER: Do you expect, Mr. Ambassador, Osama bin Laden to do something to commemorate, if will you, the fifth anniversary of 9/11?

DURRANI: I'm not sure. I can't say, but I think we should put our heads together and I think one of the biggest dangers that I see is, is this, you know, blame-throwing game. I think there is no latitude for having any kink in our armor. The U.S., U.K., Pakistan, the other countries who want terrorists out, they should be joining together. They should fight the war on terror together. There should be no kinks in our armor. Because --

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, one final question before I let you and Peter go. There's some concern that's been expressed, if there were a successful assassination attempt against President Pervez Musharraf who has been the leader and he's thwarted several of these attempts over the years that Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal potentially could be a threat and Osama bin Laden has made it clear he'd love to get his hands on a nuclear bomb and kill millions of Americans, if he could. How worried should Americans be that that nuclear arsenal in Pakistan is vulnerable?

DURRANI: I think the people in the U.S. should know the Pakistan military, you have worked with us. You have interacted with us. For years, people have done courses here. You should have confidence in the Pakistan military and the Pakistani system. I think there is zero chance of the nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the extremists. The extremists in Pakistan are a very small minority. I wouldn't even put them in the region of two percent. So there's no question of the nuclear weapons going into their hands.

BLITZER: Mahmud Ali Durrani, is Pakistan's new ambassador here in Washington. As I said earlier, Mr. Ambassador welcome to the United States.

DURRANI: Thank you.

BLITZER: We hope you'll be a frequent visitor here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

DURRANI: It would be my pleasure.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen, is our terrorism analyst, he always is a frequent visitor in THE SITUATION ROOM. Peter thanks very much.

BERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And for our viewers, don't miss an encore presentation of "In the Footsteps of Bin Laden," a "CNN PRESENTS" special two-hour investigation that airs this Saturday and Sunday night. The stories only CNN can tell you about the man who became the world's most wanted terrorist. Now more than ever, you need to know your enemy. Saturday, Sunday night, 7:00 p.m. eastern.

Still to come, their country rocked by sectarian violence, Iraqis fleeing to the relative safety of squalid camps to wait. When we come back, an exclusive look at the forgotten Iraqis.

And later, a compromise over contraception. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at the pros and cons of the FDA decision making the so- called morning after pill more available. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. It's an unbelievable scene and it's all too real. Thousands of Iraqis are now refugees in their own country, as a result of the deadly sectarian violence. CNN got some exclusive access to one refugee tent camp. Let's go to CNN's Michael Holmes, he's in Baghdad.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as U.S. and Iraqi troops move suburb by suburb through Baghdad, trying to ease some of the sectarian violence, some of the victims of that violence are being forced to leave their homes and move into what are essentially refugee camps.


HOLMES (voice-over): On the dusty scrap of dirt in an outer suburb of Baghdad, a temporary home is fast becoming a permanent one for hundreds of Iraqis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I used to have a house in Haswa and have a good life and now I live in this place hike animals live in a cage. HOLMES: They are Iraq's internally displaced, refugees in their own country, forced to leave their homes and old lives by increasingly deadly sectarian violence. Around the country, there are 19 camps like this one, Tirkuk. Some contain Sunnis forced to flee Shia neighborhoods, some, this one included, contains Shias forced to escape death threats and killings in Sunni neighborhoods.

KARIMA JASIM, REFUGEE (through translator): They forced to us leave our house. They told us to leave the house or we will kill you. I moved to where my family lived but they threatened us there, too.

HOLMES (on camera): The government here estimates nearly a quarter of a million Iraqis live in camps like Tirkuk, all of them displaced since February of this year and the number grows every day.

SALIMA KHAMIS, REFUGEE (through translator): We used to live in Al Amariya but then we decided to leave because it became unsafe for us and because of the threats we decided to escape.

HOLMES: Here in Tirkuk, 800 people live in an area about the size of two soccer fields, tents still dominate the dusty landscape, but showcasing the pessimism of ever moving home, many make their own cement blocks and begin to build something more permanent.

JASSIM: We live such a miserable life here. Now we are building a small house. One day we eat and the next day we have nothing to eat.

HOLMES: Karima Jassim helps build that house, collecting dirt and stones to mix with Spartan supplies of low-quality cement. Everyone pitches in. There are few tools here. Cement, often mixed by hand. Nearby, a man scales an electricity pole, stealing electricity for his family, a dangerous job by an unqualified but desperate man. Local aid agencies try to help out, building community toilets, providing water, but even that sometimes runs out.

Under a baking summer sun, some children pitch in. Others amuse themselves as best they can. No school for these kids, although the government says it is working on that. For now, a game of marbles, others just wander, avoiding the pools of sewage. Some simply sit, and stare ahead into an uncertain future.


HOLMES: Many of the people at the camp we attended said they would like to go home one day, but given the current situation, they're not holding their breath. Wolf?

BLITZER: Michael Holmes in Baghdad, thank you.

Up ahead, the so-called morning after pill will be available over the counter in the near future. We're going to take a closer look at the controversial compromise by the FDA.

And later, get this, Pluto, kicked out of the solar system as a planet. Why the ninth rock from the sun is being busted to a lower celestial standing. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A battle over nonprescription sales of the so-called "morning after pill" is finally over. With a compromise. The FDA is approving over-the-counter sales of plan B to women aged 18 years and older. For more, let's go to our senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's what happens when politics and medicine collide, whether to make plan B available over-the-counter has been debated for three years now. Finally, today, we have a decision.


GUPTA (voice-over): Commonly referred to as the morning after pill, plan B was first approved for prescription use in the United States in 1999. Since then, effectiveness, relatively low side effects and ease of use have made it the most common form of emergency contraception. On average, most women have an eight percent chance they will become pregnant after having unprotected intercourse. If taken within 72 hours though, plan B can lower that chance to one percent.

Here's how it works. Plan B contains high doses of progesterone, that's a birth control hormone that tells the brain not to ovulate or release an egg. Now, if ovulation has already happened when the pill is taken, the hormone works to prevent fertilization by making it harder for the sperm to penetrate the egg. And if fertilization has already occurred, then most doctors believe the morning after pill can prevent the fertilized egg from ever attaching to the wall of the uterus.

Misconceptions about plan B have driven the controversy surrounding this drug. Some believe that it can cause birth defects if the pregnancy develops or even cause an abortion. Others believe that no such thing could occur because plan B prevents the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall.

DR. CHARLES J. LOCKWOOD, YALE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Taking the morning after pill definitely does not harm an established pregnancy, doesn't cause birth defects, doesn't cause abortions of implanted healthy pregnancies.

GUPTA: In fact, when a pregnancy occurs, hormones in a woman's body change dramatically and suddenly the body is awash in progesterone. Plan B would simply add more. Another misconception is to confuse plan B with RU-486, the abortion pill. Even doctor's offices can mistake the difference. Lalena Garcia wanted to prevent pregnancy and as most people would, called her doctor's office for a prescription.

LALENA GARCIA, MORNING-AFTER PILL USER: So I called and I said hi, I need to make an appointment to just come in and get a prescription for the morning after pill and they said oh, we don't have that. No, no, no, no, not RU 486. I want emergency contraception, I want the morning after pill.

GUPTA: In fact, the two drugs work in literally opposite ways. Instead of increasing progesterone levels the way plan B does, RU 486 lowers progesterone levels, inducing menstruation and the loss of an early pregnancy. Other questions about plan B don't have such clear- cut answers. Opponents argue widespread access will encourage irresponsible sexual behavior among young people and increased sexually transmitted diseases. Two large studies have not supported those claims and now approved for over-the-counter use or not, that controversy is likely to continue.


GUPTA: Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thank you.

So how is today's decision to sell the morning after pill without a prescription being received. For some answers online let's bring in our internet reporter Jacki Schechner, Jacki?

SCHECHNER: Wolf, the FDA has already put up a question and answer page on their Web site for more information about plan B that you can read for yourself. They've also posted a memorandum from the acting commissioner explaining why he believes 18 and not 17 is the appropriate cutoff age.

As for reaction, abortion rights activists like NARAL are generally supportive of the decision. Although some other organizations like Planned Parenthood think they haven't gone far enough, that the drug should be available without a prescription for those under 18.

As for anti-abortion activist groups like "Focus on the Family", they quote, call the decision "An invitation for adult men to pressure young women into having sex." There is also "The Family Research Council" which says it's going to pursue legal and legislative action against the FDA calling the decision "a deliberate disregard for women's health and the law." Wolf?

BLITZER: Jacki, thanks.

Still ahead, a change of galactic proportions in the way scientists define a planet. We'll have the full story and we'll tell you why astronomy textbooks will never, ever be the same. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Zain one more time for some other important stories. Zain?

VERJEE: Hi, Wolf. Austrian police say they expect DNA tests to confirm the identity of a young woman who says she was abducted eight years ago when she was 10 years old and held hostage ever since. At the time the case received widespread publicity and set off a nationwide search. The alleged kidnaper reportedly committed suicide yesterday, shortly after the woman's claim was reported.

Former prisoner of war in Iraq Jessica Lynch is pregnant. In a statement released just a short while ago, Lynch says the news has brought her "tremendous joy." She says that she's had a long recovery and she's still coping with some of the injuries suffered during her ordeal. In the early days of the Iraq invasion, Lynch spent nine days in captivity before being rescued in a Special Forces raid.

Firefighters from Arizona and Oregon are joining in the battle with wildfires sweeping across Washington State's Colombia County. The reinforcements bring the number of firefighters on the lines to 500. The fast-moving flames have scorched thousands of acres. Hundreds of people have had to evacuate, 200 buildings are threatened. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain, thank you.

The earth lost one of its planetary neighbors today. Pluto, defined as a planet since 1930 is being demoted big-time. Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman, he's a Pluto expert. Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the biggest news of the day. We're changing our sense of our own solar system. Now, I'll tell you something, Pluto is not a welcoming place. We all know that, it's covered with poisonous gases, has about 6 percent of the gravity of here, it's perpetually dark and if you were standing there as a human being, you would be instantly frozen solid. That's how cold it is.

Nonetheless, the story of Pluto has been one of the great stories of American astronomy. It was discovered in 1930 by a young man who was just out of high school, who built his first telescope by himself, and it has been a great icon of American astronomy ever since. Nonetheless, the International Astronomical Union has been looking at this for years and basically what they said is, it's too small, its orbit is too strange, and that it's a big oblong, unlike the other planets.

And if you brought it in closer to the sun it would actually sprout a tail like a comet. Therefore, they say, it's not really a planet, but not without very heated debate, as attested to by Lee Mundy, an astronomer from the University of Maryland I talked to this afternoon.


PROF. LEE MUNDY, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: There is a lot of feeling among astronomers that the history of Pluto should leave it in the gang, just leave it in the gang because it got there by history. But really science is about staring history in the face and saying, did we make the right or the wrong decision, and then having the courage to face up and say, this is now the right decision.


FOREMAN: What complicated this matter even more was the fact that over the past 10 years, scientists have discovered more than a dozen other things out there that are very much like Pluto. So they said either we have to name them all as new planets, and all of you school kids are going to have to learn them, or we demote Pluto. Nonetheless, people are very worked up about it. I'll have much more tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." And I can say tonight you do need to watch, because the fate of the universe literally rests upon it. Wolf?

BLITZER: Pluto, love Pluto. Thanks very much Tom, we'll be watching. That's all the time we have here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. Let's go to New York, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now. Kitty Pilgrim filling in for Lou. Kitty?


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines